Guide to Anxiety Disorders

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guide to disorders

Anxiety is an unfortunate part of the human existence. Everyone feels anxious once and a while. When you feel anxiety regularly, or if it inhibits your daily life, then you may be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. 


There are five main types of anxiety disorders: generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Each type comes with its own symptoms and causes. You can be diagnosed with more than one anxiety disorder at a time. 


Below we will tell you everything you need to know about the five different anxiety disorders. If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety, check out some therapy options here


All About Anxiety Disorders

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recognizes five distinct types of anxiety disorder. Before receiving treatment for your anxiety problem, it is important to learn what type of anxiety you have. A licensed psychiatrist or psychologist can diagnose your specific anxiety disorder and help you with treatment options. Always see a registered professional for diagnosis or a treatment plan. 


Below you will find a basic description of each type of anxiety disorder, its causes, and symptoms. This list should help you learn a little bit more about what is causing your anxiety and hopefully get you started in the right direction of treatments.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The first type of anxiety is one of the more common. It is a generalized anxiety disorder. This type of anxiety disorder is defined as people who “display excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about a number of things such as personal health, work, social interactions, and everyday routine life circumstances. The fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of their life, such as social interactions, school, and work.” 


That is a fairly long definition. The short version is that generalized anxiety disorder is a condition where you feel consistently anxious for at least six months in a row, and this anxiety negatively affects your life. You don’t have to worry about specific things to have generalized anxiety disorder. 

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Other symptoms of this type include: 


  • Feeling nervous or on-edge. 
  • Fatigue.
  • Concentration problems. 
  • Muscle tension and pain. 
  • Irritability. 
  • Sleep issues. 


There are many causes of generalized anxiety disorder. The exact combination of biological and environmental factors that lead to this disorder is not completely understood. However, lifestyle changes, learning coping mechanisms, and employing relaxation techniques can help you manage the symptoms. 


Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is a little more specific than generalized anxiety disorder. This disorder is characterized by frequent and unexpected panic attacks. The panic attacks may be caused by a known or unknown trigger. Panic disorder significantly interrupts people’s quality of life, as fear of panic attacks may prevent someone from experiencing new things or developing agoraphobia.  


Panic attacks have specific symptoms, which characterize this anxiety disorder. In many cases, the symptoms mimic a heart attack, but in a panic attack, they will subside within minutes. The most common symptoms of a panic attack are


  • Heart palpitations.
  • Sweating and shaking. 
  • Shortness of breath. 
  • Feelings of impending doom or loss of control. 
  • Hot flashes or chills. 
  • Headache
  • Nausea


As with generalized anxiety disorder, there is no one cause of panic disorder. Some people have a higher risk. This includes those with a family history of panic attacks, someone going through a period of major stress, traumatic event, a history of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse, and cigarette or caffeine use.   


Someone with panic disorder needs to begin treatment as soon as possible. Regular psychotherapy and medications may be used to treat the disorder. 


Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 

When you have obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD, you will experience uncontrollable and recurring thoughts and/or behaviors. The obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors create their own sets of symptoms. These include


For Obsessions

  • Fear of germs.
  • Recurring and unwanted taboo thoughts. 
  • Requiring items to be in perfect order or symmetrical. 
  • Aggression. 


For Compulsions

  • Constant handwashing and cleaning. 
  • Requiring certain precise arrangements of objects. 
  • Counting 
  • Checking on things repeatedly. 


OCD symptoms vary in severity and, obviously, there are quite a few of them. If any of these symptoms are inhibiting your day to day life, seek help from a qualified professional immediately. 

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Social Anxiety Disorder

Getting a little anxious when speaking in front of a crowd does not mean you have social anxiety disorder. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms you may have this anxiety disorder. 


  • Intense fear of specific social situations. 
  • Constant worrying about embarrassing yourself. 
  • Fear and anxiety surrounding social interactions. 


You may also experience some physical symptoms with this disorder. They often include 


  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle tension
  • Pounding heart. 


As with all of the anxiety disorders on this list, social anxiety disorder symptoms present on a spectrum. If you have a family history of the disorder, been bullied or teased in the past, or are naturally shy, you may be at more risk. Untreated severe symptoms could lead to agoraphobia or other problems. It is best to work with a therapist to develop coping strategies and replace negative thought patterns. 


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 

The final anxiety disorder on our list is PTSD. While Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is most often associated with soldiers, anyone can experience it. PTSD develops after someone has undergone a traumatic experience, such as a life-threatening situation. After a traumatic event, most people will experience some symptoms but return to their normal life. If the symptoms linger and cause significant problems in your life, you may be diagnosed with PTSD. 


Symptoms of this disorder are too many to list here. They fall into four main categories: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood. See this site for more information about PTSD symptoms for each category.


PTSD is an extremely serious condition, which requires immediate professional help. But psychotherapy and/or medication can help overcome their PTSD symptoms. 


If you are experiencing the symptoms of any of the anxiety disorders listed in this article, don’t suffer in silence. Contact a professional today and get the help you deserve.